Mike Smith will ride Chocolate Candy in the May 2 Kentucky Derby.

Mike Smith will ride Chocolate Candy in the May 2 Kentucky Derby.

Anne M. Eberhardt

Smith, Chocolate Candy Get Acquainted

Santa Anita Derby runner-up works five furlongs under his new jockey.

(from Santa Anita notes)

Chocolate Candy, runner-up in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I), worked five furlongs under new rider Mike Smith on Pro-Ride in :59 1/5 April 12. The son of Candy Ride  is scheduled to leave April 14 for Louisville to prepare for the 135th Kentucky Derby.

Chocolate Candy is one of four major contenders for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) based in Southern California,

“I was happy with the work,” said trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. “Mike was able to familiarize himself with the horse, and he’s going to work the horse two times at Churchill Downs.”

Smith was happy with his new Derby mount as well, said Hollendorfer assistant Dan Ward.

Chocolate Candy, who finished one length behind Pioneerof the Nile  in the Santa Anita Derby, won the El Camino Real Derby (gr. III) and the California Derby earlier this year.

In addition to Chocolate Candy and Pioneerof the Nile, Southern California-based I Want Revenge  and Papa Clem have emerged as leading hopefuls for the May 2 Run for the Roses. I Want Revenge was beaten twice by Pioneerof the Nile -- in the CashCall Futurity (gr. I) at Hollywood Park last Dec. 20 and the Feb. 7 Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr. II)  -- before shipping east to win the Gotham Stakes (gr. III) and the Wood Memorial (gr. I) at Aqueduct.

Papa Clem was second by a half-length to Pioneerof the Nile in the Lewis before leaving town to run second in the Louisiana Derby (gr. II). He defeated even-money favorite Old Fashioned April 11 in the $1-million Arkansas Derby.

“The California horses seem to be doing well,” Hollendorfer said.

“It means nothing now,” said Bob Baffert, who trains Pioneerof the Nile. “What will be meaningful is how they’re doing the week of the Derby. We know we have good horses here. We knew that going in. I bet on Papa Clem yesterday.”

Dennis O’Neill, brother and associate of trainer Doug O’Neill, said Square Eddie  leaves the morning of April 14 for Keeneland, where he runs in the $300,000 Coolmore Lexington Stakes (gr. II) at 1 1/16 miles. Square Eddie breezed six furlongs on Hollywood Park’s Cushion Track April 11 in 1:12 1/5.

Square Eddie was second to Midshipman in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) at Oak Tree last Oct. 25, a race in which Pioneerof the Nile finished fifth by almost three lengths.

“Square Eddie belongs with these horses,” Dennis O'Neill said. “It’s just a question of fitness, I guess, at this point. The way he worked yesterday, and hopefully, with a race into him Saturday, we’ll be close (for the Derby).”

In a change in his colt’s schedule, Baffert said Pioneerof the Nile would work at Santa Anita April 15 and ship the following day to Churchill Downs, where two workouts are scheduled before the Derby. Initially, Baffert considered working the Santa Anita Derby winner Monday for a Tuesday departure.

Baffert still had no commitment from Garrett Gomez on Pioneerof the Nile for the Derby. The nation’s Eclipse Award winner as outstanding jockey the last two years also is the rider of Florida Derby (gr. I) runner-up Dunkirk for Todd Pletcher.

“(Ron) Anderson (agent for Gomez) is supposed to let me know after this weekend,” Baffert said. “I haven’t even thought about a backup (rider).”